Blog

The Case for Universal Access and Design: The Example of the Civil War Petitions Project

Digital humanities projects such as the Civil War Petitions project have led to unprecedented ease of access to a variety of source material in multiple archives across national and international boundaries.  For many scholars working in digital humanities these exciting and innovative developments are slowly changing how we work.  In the field of digital archives these developments are particularly encouraging for scholars and students with disabilities whether they be mobility related, sensory or neurological.  It is also encouraging for those without disabilities but who are limited in their ability to visit archives, handle and read archival material.  However, many scholars in the field of disability and digital humanities have stated that using digital technology to overcome these barriers is more than just putting archival material online.  Scholars strongly advocate an approach of ‘Universal Design’ a set of principles in the design, output and user interaction of online materials with the aim of reaching and catering for the widest possible audience. This blogpost aims to outline and discuss the importance of universal access and design in the digital humanities with specific reference to the Civil War Petitions project.  It will define universal access and design by outlining its key features, arguing why issues of universal access and design should be mandatory considerations when creating and developing a digital archive or any digital humanities resource.   It will then reflect on the current benefits and key features of the Civil War Petitions project that enable historians to work remotely or use the archive in ways that would not be possible in a traditional setting. It will draw attention to the advantages of using WordPress as a tool to promote universal access for all. What is Universal Design and Why is it important? In his seminal work on the subject George Williams defines the universal design principle as one where the largest audience is to be kept in mind when designing, creating and maintaining digital humanities projects. North Carolina State University’s College of Design states that universal design is ‘designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and useable to the greatest extent possible by everyone regardless, of their age, ability and status in life’ (Williams, p. 204).  Indeed, those working in digital humanities should look beyond accessibility which aims to cater for a wide range of individual disabilities with bespoke targeted solutions and embrace the all encompassing concept of universal design which assists everyone. Lisa Potts has argued that digital humanities projects need to reach beyond their specialised field of researchers and attract the widest possible audience. Digital humanities scholars need to focus on the usability of their sites to attract these wide audiences.  Williams highly recommends that all scholars working in the field of digital humanities should adhere to the recommendations of the web accessibility initiative when building a digital humanities project.  Key recommendations on web content include providing text alternatives for non-text content, providing captions and other alternatives for multimedia and creating content that can be presented in different ways through the use of assistive technologies making it easier for users to see and hear content (Williams, p. 207; Potts, pp. 255-263; Web Accessibility Initiative, ‘WCAG 2.1 At a Glance’. For a critical evaluation of these guidelines, see Goggin and Newell, p. 1 and 118-119). The full documentation can be accessed here:  https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/. Why is this important? In the UK standards of web accessibility are enshrined in law. This is in line with the wider goals of the EU and the UN to pursue accessibility and inclusion in education.  Williams argues that as the majority of digital humanities projects are pursued by publicly funded universities and other institutions projects therefore should be made as accessible as possible.  Underpinning these ambitions are the pursuits of social justice and equality. Williams believes that all scholars and IT professionals should take an active interest and approach to the issue rather than waiting for governments to enforce the changes (Williams, pp. 205-206). The Civil War Petitions Project: Enabling Independence Before we focus on the key features of the civil war petitions project and its platform WordPress to enable universal design, we need to take a step back and reflect on key advantages of the project in terms of enabling full scholarly independence for a wide range scholars and students. It is estimated that 20% of the world population has some form of disability.  Disability can affect everyone regardless of age, ability or social status. Anyone at any age or social background can become ill or disabled in their lifetime. Therefore, it is in everyone’s interests that we promote efforts to enable scholarly independence via digital humanities which helps facilitate inclusion and diversity within the history profession. These considerations co-exist and are inseparable from key arguments for universal design. The Civil War Petitions Project brings together thousands of petitions dating from the mid seventeenth century from a variety of archives across the UK making them accessible online.  It aids the ability of all scholars to access these materials at a time of their choosing and from home. Therefore, it saves time and money by cutting out the need to travel to archives and by doing so saving money on travel and accommodation. This is particularly important if you are a self-funded postgraduate or if you do not have the financial resources to travel. For scholars and students with limited mobility there are additional advantages too. Despite clear efforts by UK archives to enable physical accessibility to repositories, due to the nature of their locations or the age of buildings, not all archives are easily accessible to wheelchair users or those with limited mobility.  In such situations, archives are very happy to make alternative arrangements with advance notice.   However, the advantage of the Civil War Petitions Project is that it gives scholars with mobility impairments full independence in consulting key primary material without the need to worry about access or special arrangements.  It also allows a number of these scholars to make large financial savings as many rely on assistants and carers who accompany them during their travels. Physical access to the archive is one matter but consulting and taking notes from archival material is another.  It brings its own set of challenges depending on the disability.  I may be stating the obvious but seventeenth-century manuscripts are not in written in braille neither can text be audible to the reader. The widespread practice of allowing readers to take their own digital images of manuscripts has broken down some of these barriers especially for those of us who have had to rely on a scribe to assist with notetaking.  Digital photography via mobile phones can cut down or remove the costly business of ordering copies. The Civil War Petitions project takes these developments further and allows all scholars to access material from a large cross section of archives. All scholars can work at their own pace, re-read material, compare and contrast a wide selection of source material all from the comfort of their own home or the office.  The use of WordPress as a platform allows all scholars, including those who use assistive technology, to use the material in a variety of different ways that would be impossible in a traditional archival setting.  Arguably, it creates a digital research community with a sense of belonging where a large number of users can access material regardless of age, ability or status.  In doing so it promotes equality, diversity and inclusion within UK Higher Education (Konnerup, pp. 195, 198 and 203). WordPress and Assistive Technologies The use of assistive technologies is a highly complex subject which depends on individual disabilities and the various research and learning styles amongst scholars. An easy to use interface that can be used by the widest possible audience should be a central concern in digital humanities (Konnerup, p. 196). WordPress which is used by the Civil War Petitions Project has a simple, easy to use and effective interface for all its users.  There are a number of WordPress plugins that make its content more accessible and bring us closer to succeeding in our ambitions for universal design in digital humanities: The Braille plug in developed by the University of Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities which combines with Anthologize plug which enables users to turn WordPress content into book form and translate English text into braille (University of Maryland, ‘Braille’). The Responsive Voice Text to Speech plug in allows WordPress text to be converted to speech (Responsivevoice, ‘Responsivevoice’). Able Player plug in allows you to provide audio and other accessible features to your videos and multimedia content (Armentrout, ‘Able Player’). Even though these plug ins are in their early stages of development their very existence is extremely encouraging.  It is hoped that one day many of these plug ins and other features which enable scholarly independence will become standard in the design of websites and blogs in the future. Thus, making universal design and access a reality for everyone in the academic world whether they be academics, students or the general public helping to bring history to life for everyone regardless of their age, ability or social status. Further Reading Armentrout Damion, ‘Able Player’ https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/wp-able-player/ [Last accessed 28/04/20]. Goggin Gerard and Newell Christopher, Digital Disability: The Social Construction of Disability in the New Media (Oxford, 2003). Konnerup Ulla, ‘Inclusive Digital Technologies for People with Communication Disabilities’ in  Kergel David and Heidkamp Birte eds., The Digital Turn in Higher Education: International Perspectives on Teaching and Learning in an International World (Weisbaden, 2018). Potts Lisa, ‘Archive Experiences: A Vision for User Centred Design in the Digital Humanities’ in Ridolfo Jim and Hart-Davidson William, Rhetoric in the Digital Humanities (Chicago, 2015). Responsivevoice,  ‘Responsivevoice’ https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/responsivevoice-text-to-speech/ [Last accessed 28/4/20] University of Maryland, Maryland Institute for the Humanities, ‘Braille’ https://wpsocket.com/plugin/braille/ [Last accessed 28/04/20]. W3: Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) ‘WCAG 2.1 At a Glance’ https://www.w3.org/WAI/standards-guidelines/wcag/glance/ [Last accessed 27/04/2020] Williams, George H, ‘Disability, Universal Design and Digital Humanities’ in Gold, Matthew K ed., Debates in Digital Humanities (Minneapolis, 2012). Dr Kirsteen M MacKenzie is a historian specialising in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1638-1660 and Jacobitism c.1688-1788.  Her monograph on the Solemn League and Covenant and the Three Kingdoms c.1643-1663 was published by Routledge in 2017.  Her current interests are in British and Irish book history c.1603-1707. Dr MacKenzie is registered disabled and has a keen interest in how digital humanities can make history accessible for everyone. Dr MacKenzie has a Twitter feed @HistorianRemote which explores online and digital resources in history for higher education. You can also follow her on Twitter at @kirsteenMM

Read More

‘The utter ruin of this poor town’: Quartering Soldiers in Haverfordwest during the Second Civil War.

Previous blogs have looked at the types and nature of paid employment undertaken by the mothers and wives of maimed soldiers and war widows in order to compensate for the damaging consequences of disablement and death to the family income, whilst these and other blogs have emphasised the role of the family in providing long-term care for the sick and wounded. But, as Verne Walker explains in this guest blog, it was not just the women of military families who were forced to take on new jobs or caring duties in the Civil Wars. Whilst the Civil Wars in Wales and the events of the so-called 'Second Civil War' in particular have often been neglected in the scholarship, she uses the mayoral accounts of the Welsh town of Haverfordwest in 1648 to provide a fascinating insight into the impact of the Civil Wars on civilian women... ‘It is one of the virtues of war that it puts the light which in peacetime is hid under a bushel in such prominence  that all can see it,’ wrote Jenny Randolph Churchill on women’s work in the First World War; and this may hold true for other conflicts. The role of women can also be glimpsed through the records relating to the Second Civil War in Wales from the town of Haverfordwest. The county of Pembrokeshire saw the siege of Pembroke Castle in 1648 which lasted from Oliver Cromwell’s arrival around 24 May 1648 to its surrender on the 11 July. The siege resulted in many wounded needing care and maintenance. Although the quarter session records for Pembrokeshire, and hence any local petitions are lost, the borough records for the town of Haverfordwest, eleven miles to the north of Pembroke and the principal market town of the county, record the arrangements for the quartering and care for both prisoners and the wounded from the siege. These records show the community care which soldiers received before they returned to their families and as such fill a gap in the records that the petitions do not necessarily capture. The records reveal that work for women in Haverfordwest was contingent on the demands of the war. The mayoral accounts for Haverfordwest for 1648 list payments to local women for the care of prisoners from the siege.  The town held 84 prisoners, some of whom were injured, ‘which came from Pembroke at ‘at a cost to the town of ‘2d apiece p[er] diem’. Three unnamed women of the town were paid for fetching ‘5 burdens of straw for the prison[ers] to lye upon’ in the Shire Hall where they were held. Later a woman was paid three pence for cleaning after them. It may be considered fortunate that the men had been provided with ‘great pots to make water in’. There is nothing in these accounts that would suggest that the work that these women were doing was linked to the provision of poor relief in any way. The tasks are gendered work in the very masculine space of the shire hall. The task had the twofold benefit of helping the community in its duty of holding prisoners, but it also allowed the women to earn money to supplement family income. In records that abound with names of persons to whom payments are made it is significant that for the jobs associated with the lower orders and especially women, the recipients are rarely named. The care of soldiers was not just a job for the lower orders; the better off also took part in the necessary tasks associated with war. The quartering of dragoons after the siege of Pembroke was also a duty that fell upon the townspeople of Haverfordwest. The town’s stretched resources caused the council to write to the leading New Model Army officer in the region, Colonel Thomas Horton, in October 1648, that the town could not afford to house further troops. Despite this, accommodation was found not only for the men but for their horses also. The task of lodging these men fell to the better off householders in the town who had the capacity for liverying horses. William Davis was paid from the town accounts, fifteen shillings for housing two men and two horses for three days in October 1648, and ‘Widdow Kneethell’ five shillings for one day. These proportions suggest that a set rate was adopted for paying the townsfolk in their support of the wounded soldiers. The rates were paid by the borough and may have reflected the rank of the men being lodged, possibly officers or troopers given the status of their lodgings and presence of horses. This did not mean that the men were affable houseguests though. Colonel Horton based at Tenby who had men quartered in Haverfordwest had to threaten his troops with disciplinary action due to some of them behaving in a rowdy manner, forcing their hosts to send them to lodge in ‘inns and alehouses’ which suggests a degree of tension between the townspeople and the quartered troops. The housing of these men may not have always been straightforward, but there were other soldiers who required more intense labour from their host households. The care of injured soldiers, sometimes over many weeks, also fell to the middling sorts. The names of the people to whom payments were made are listed in the mayoral accounts. The payments were mostly made to men, the head of household being named for payment for the care; however, it is most likely that the actual care of the injured fell to the women, nursing being seen as work for which women were more suitable. There is no record in the accounts of any other medical aid for these men by surgeons, and the quartering could last for months with some of the men dying of their wounds. Henry Lewis was paid for the care of one man for 27 weeks until he ‘went away’. Griffith Phillips was paid three shillings and sixpence per week for one man for four weeks before the man died. One widow, Margott Fowth, received four shillings for quartering a sick soldier who later died, money being provided for his shroud and burial. Balthazar Goffe quartered John Beeres for ten weeks. This care included providing clothing and travel expenses such as the hire of horses, when the men were ready to leave. The amounts and length of stay reflect the level of care the wounded needed and hence the severity of their wounds. A petition from local people to the mayor and aldermen of the town in February 1649 makes clear that the cost to the town was becoming unmanageable and though the inhabitants had ‘cheerfully’ looked after the injured men there was a feeling that they should be moved back to their headquarters, a moot point as the army was purposely quartering the troops in the county. Whilst this petition was worded carefully to avoid any sense of recrimination, there is a clear sense that the townspeople felt they had done enough. In a letter surviving from 1652, when the town was facing crippling assessments and the local economy had been impacted by an outbreak of plague, the overall cost to the town for the care of the wounded soldiers in 1648 was put at £420 for six weeks, making it hard for the town to meet the assessment payments. However, it is clear that some injured men were cared for far longer. Women were previously visible in the town accounts working as low-paid, unskilled workers doing heavy tasks, such as carrying stones and water during building work, prior to and during the early years of the civil wars. This time of increased burden on the town in 1648 from quartered soldiers, both fit and wounded, also saw the order for Haverfordwest castle to be demolished to prevent it being used against the parliamentarian forces in the same way as Pembroke Castle. The cost fell on the town. An urgent rate was imposed on the surrounding hundreds and so the order to demolish the castle had a far-reaching impact in the county. There could be no doubt that the parliamentary forces were stamping their authority on the county by destroying the material culture of the local elites. The mayoral accounts show multiple payments to masons, smiths, carpenters and labourers for the demolition work on the castle in 1648. Despite the visibility of women in the early part of the war in moving stones as day-waged labourers, in this task there were no women paid for work. The task was urgent as can be seen in a draft warrant to the high constables giving instructions to collect an urgent rate for the demolition funds and extra labour was needed to help complete the task. Rather than supplementing the labour of the town with women as would be usual, the presence of colliers in the lists of payments suggest that men were brought from the nearby coal-mining areas to bolster the workforce of the town. In 1652 the cost of the demolition was put at £40. Women were paid less than men for this type of work so it should have been more cost effective for the town to use female labourers at this time, as was previously the custom. The absence of women may be due to extra domestic and nursing work needed in the town to cope with the number of wounded, sick and quartered soldiers. Their previous presence in hard labour suggests their skills were needed elsewhere. As the payments for the care of wounded men went to the head of the household it is impossible to see if payments were then made to local women for extra help. However, the absence of women in a role they would customarily take is suggestive of their engagement elsewhere. The records from Haverfordwest show the pressure put on the town in the aftermath of the siege in Pembroke and how the community responded to the requirements placed upon them. They demonstrate how women’s work was contingent on the needs of the town during a period of crisis and how the usual work of the townswomen changed to meet the varying needs of the time. Further Reading Arthur Leonard Leach, The History of the Civil War (1642-9) in Pembrokeshire (London: H.F. & Witherby Ltd, 1937). Roland Mathias, ‘The Second Civil War and Interregnum’, in Brian Howells (ed.), Pembrokeshire County History, Volume III (Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire Historical Society, 1987). Verne Walker is studying for an MA at the University of Leicester. Her research interests include women's work and the history of early modern Wales.

Read More

The Wounded of Naseby

Fought on 14 June 1645, Naseby has long been considered the decisive engagement of the First Civil War. There are many well-known sources for the conduct and experiences of the rival leaders and commanders. Yet little was known about the fate of those wounded at Naseby until the publication of Glenn Foard’s landmark monograph of 1995, Naseby: The Decisive Campaign. Therefore, on 7 February 2020, Andrew Hopper was delighted to be invited by Arthur, Lord Hazlerigg, to speak about Naseby’s wounded in order to promote the opening of the Naseby 375th anniversary exhibition at Daventry Museum on behalf of the Naseby Battlefield Project. One highlight of the exhibition is this little known painting of the battlefield of Naseby from c.1680 by an unknown artist (and we are most grateful to Daventry Museum for permission to reproduce this here). It appears to be derived from the better known engraving by Robert Streeter, and can also be seen on p. 51 of Martin Marix Evans’s Osprey book on Naseby (see 'Further Reading'). It exaggerates the hilly terrain of Naseby and labels the parliamentarian forces ‘The Rebells’. Thanks to Civil War Petitions, which can now be searched by events such as battles, our published petitions and certificates are already revealing to us more about the identities of those individual wounded troopers and soldiers that made up the regiments depicted on this painting. Glenn Foard’s book established more about the treatment of the better-documented parliamentarian wounded than their royalist counterparts. Those parliamentarians who were too dangerously injured to be moved were quartered for days afterwards in the timber-framed and cob cottages of Naseby village, where local inhabitants nursed them in their own homes. In an appendix in his book, Foard summarized an account held among the Commonwealth Exchequer Papers in the National Archives (SP 28/173, Part 1). This account names 535 parliamentarian wounded, arranged by regiment, who were brought into Northampton after the battle. Of these 44 later died of their wounds and are marked individually ‘mortuus est’. The Committee of the Army granted the wounded £700 and this account shows how over £697 of that sum was disbursed to pay for the surgery, nursing, diet and accommodation of individual soldiers. Some wounded were treated in St John’s Hospital on Bridge Street, while others were fed and nursed in the ‘hospitall barne’. Northampton and Wellingborough householders were paid for quartering wounded soldiers. Payments were listed to named surgeons and unnamed nurses and surgeons’ mates. Thomas Brighton was paid five pounds for transporting eighteen wounded to hospital in London. Casualties were heaviest in Sergeant-Major General Philip Skippon’s regiment of foot, which bore the brunt of the royalist infantry’s attack, and suffered 139 wounded, on top of those killed outright. Commanders of the New Model Army were among the wounded too. The commander-in-chief, Sir Thomas Fairfax was fortunate to emerge unscathed, when after losing his helmet and refusing a replacement, he charged bare-headed into the enemy. Colonel Edward Whalley had his coat cut ‘in many peeces’ but remained unharmed. Commissary-General Henry Ireton had his horse shot under him, and was run through the thigh with a pike. He was also struck in the face with a halberd and temporarily captured. Yet Ireton recovered from these wounds quite quickly to participate in the storming of Bristol three months later. Of all those wounded at Naseby, we know the most about Sergeant-Major General Skippon, thanks to the research of our project manager, Ismini Pells. Dr Pells has shown how Skippon was accidentally shot in his right side by one of his own musketeers. Fortunately, the bullet missed his spine and vital organs but it left him with an eight-inch-long exit-wound on his left side. Skippon refused to leave the field, saying ‘He would not go so long as a Man would stand’. Consequently, he lost much blood, whilst a rag from his waistcoat got stuck in the wound and infected it. Afterwards, Skippon was taken to a nearby house to have his wound dressed but soon fell into a fever. The House of Commons paid to send Skippon his own doctor and surgeon from London to tend his wound, whilst his regimental surgeon removed the scrap of waistcoat festering in it. A month later, Skippon was transported to London. As his horse-litter was drawn through Islington, a great mastiff surprised and attacked one of the horses. This shook the litter violently and Skippon’s wounded body inside it. Eventually, a soldier ran the dog through with a sword, saving Skippon’s life. Ultimately, Skippon’s treatment cost hundreds of pounds. He was fortunate to survive. He took eleven months to recover before returning to active duty at the siege of Oxford in May 1646. Royalist casualties were much heavier, especially because the parliamentarian cavalry pursued the retreating royalists for five miles, killing and wounding several hundred after the main battle had finished. The day after the battle, 4,508 royalist prisoners, including some wounded were marched from Market Harborough to Northampton. Accommodated in parish churches on their southward march to London, they passed though Olney, Bedford, Dunstable, Luton, St Albans and Barnet. There were wounded among these prisoners, because surgeons were dispatched to treat them from the parliamentarian garrison at Newport Pagnell. On 21 June, about 3,000 prisoners were paraded through London and Westminster. One French onlooker was surprised by how well they looked, which suggests that by this stage few of the royalist wounded were left among them. They were kept in the Artillery Ground near Tuttle Fields while Parliament considered their disposal. The London-based Committee of Adventurers for Ireland paid for the treatment of Naseby’s wounded royalist prisoners who volunteered to fight for Parliament in Ireland. Around 800 did so. All others who refused to forsake armed royalism risked deportation overseas. Many spent the next year or more in prison, but around 1,000 of them eventually joined the New Model Army. They were attracted by the regular pay and relative safety of service, as by summer 1646 little fighting appeared necessary. The royalist Sir Philip Warwick recalled that after Oxford’s surrender in June 1646, Fairfax told him that ‘the best common soldiers he had’ were formerly in royalist service: ‘So (sayes he) I found you had made them good soldiers, & I have made them good men.’ Many of Naseby’s wounded died well after the battle’s conclusion, sometimes years or even decades later, having lived with terrible pain from lingering wounds. Payments for those who returned home can sometimes be found in parish records. For example, that churchwardens’ accounts of Stockton in Norfolk, kindly shared with us by Tim Wales, list a payment of fifteen shillings to John Bird when he was pressed into military service for the parish in 1643. Bird received a further ten shillings from them to pay for ten days of military training. While John was away on service, the parish made the occasional weekly payment of a shilling to his wife, along with donations of hemp, timber for fuel, and repairs to the Birds’ chimney and their daughter’s shoes. After Naseby, John was listed among the wounded in Captain Tomkins’s company of Colonel John Pickering’s regiment of foot, and received eight shillings to pay for his treatment. He received a further two shillings from Stockton churchwardens when he ‘returned home maimed from Nas[e]by fight’. The parish paid for John’s wife to nurse him over a period of 41 weeks, amounting to a total of two pounds and a shilling. The parish were paying for another maimed soldier, John Rivet, and the upkeep of two more lame soldiers at the village inn. By 1647 John had passed away, as thereafter the accounts change from naming Goodwife Bird to Widow Bird. Into 1648, Widow Bird continued to receive wood, hemp, cheese and money from the parish, amounting to five pounds of the parish’s total annual outgoings of twelve pounds fourteen shillings. She was still in receipt of payments in 1658 when the parish relieved her during her own sickness. This moving example shows us how caring for the war’s wounded, widowed and orphaned could make serious inroads into parish finances for years afterward. A search of the material uploaded so far onto Civil War Petitions reveals ten maimed royalist soldiers, to just one parliamentarian maimed soldier and one widow of a parliamentarian. In 1655, William Yorke of Coggeshall petitioned Essex justices that he had served at Naseby, and had ‘received very dangerous wounds’, though not it seems at Naseby as his name is missing from the list of wounded. Ten years on, these now caused him such pain that they disabled William from employment. He was left with six children to support, and had been refused parish relief because Coggeshall was ‘full of necessitous poor people’. His petition was endorsed by four of his neighbours but its outcome remains unknown. The following year, Margaret Walker, also of Coggeshall, petitioned that her husband, Peter, had served at Naseby among Colonel Rainsborough’s regiment, but had been killed subsequently at Sherborne Castle, leaving her a ‘poor distressed widow’. Margaret’s petition set out that she was no longer able to earn her living because of her age and sickness. Her claim was supported by eighteen neighbours, no doubt hoping to lower their own burden by shifting Margaret’s maintenance away from parish relief and onto a county pension. She was awarded a pension of forty shillings per year, a fairly standard sum. The royalist wounded were unable to apply for a pension legally until after the Restoration in 1660, leaving us with the interesting question of how they got by before then. A flood of royalist petitioners came forward during the reign of Charles II, displacing their parliamentarian predecessors in the process. Among the ten royalist petitioners to mention Naseby that have been uploaded so far, three were from Denbighshire, three were from Herefordshire, two troopers were from Yorkshire and one each came from Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire. The most striking of their petitions is that of Rowland Harrison of Whitby, a trooper in Prince Rupert’s regiment from when the King first raised his standard at Nottingham in August 1642. Petitioning aged seventy in 1685, Harrison appears to have retained vivid memories of his Civil-War exploits, including, that at Naseby he was ‘one of the nine that escaped out of the three and thirty that went out of Prince Rupert Regiment’. Nine of his neighbours, including local gentry, endorsed his petition, suggesting that by 1685 he had become something of a local character. Sir Hugh Cholmley vouched that Harrison’s petition was true ‘having heard the same confirmed for more than thirty years that the petitioner hath been known to me.’ Occasionally our petitions provide us with wonderful insights like these into how oral memories circulated in the post-war decades. Among other royalist petitioners, Thomas ap Richard of Wrexham, a Denbighshire trooper complained he had ‘lost his health and wasted his estate in the said service’. He received a pension of twenty shillings in 1664. John Hughes, also of Denbighshire, served in the regiment of Sir Thomas Salusbury, and was taken prisoner at Naseby ‘being then miserably wounded, was shot through the leg’, and was afterwards held prisoner in Leicester ‘in a woeful condition’. William Wilson of Gisburn was entered onto the pensioners’ roll by West Riding justices in 1677, thereby endorsing his claim that he had been a trooper wounded at ‘Kneasbie field’. In Herefordshire in 1668, John Howells petitioned the Mayor of Hereford for a place as an almsman in the city’s hospital, having served at Naseby and suffered ‘divers hurts, wounds, bruises and maims’, as well as losing his sight. John Evans of Hereford petitioned the Mayor in 1684 that he had served in Prince Rupert’s regiment of foot, and been wounded and captured at Naseby. Like many other petitioners, he drew attention to his imprisonment: sixteen weeks as ‘close prisoner’, in ‘thraldom of misery’ in London. He was granted a pitiful four pence per week by the corporation. The following year the Herefordshire county justices only granted bread to the value of sixpence a week to the seventy-year-old William Jones of Bodenham, who petitioned that he had been pressed from the parish of his birth into Sir Jacob Astley’s regiment, only to be wounded at Naseby. Over and above the royalist soldiers wounded at Naseby, we should also remember the women maimed and killed at Farndon Field following the battle. This has been the subject of an important article by our co-investigator, Mark Stoyle, who reveals in one of our previous blogs, Echoes of a Massacre, that Elizabeth Burgess, a servant in the royal household, was among the victims of this atrocity. The suggestion that many of those that were maimed or killed alongside Elizabeth were wives and relatives of Welsh royalist soldiers is supported by the presence of Denbighshire petitions mentioning Naseby after 1660. The numbers of petitioners that reference Naseby are so far insufficient to support any broad conclusions. But over the next twelve months, as increasing numbers of petitions and certificates are uploaded for our forthcoming counties, much more about the identities of Naseby’s wounded will surely be revealed. Further Reading Glenn Foard, Naseby: The Decisive Campaign (Whitstable, 1995), including appendix 3, ‘Parliamentarian Wounded’, pp. 408–413. Barbara Donagan, ‘Casualties of war: treatment of the dead and wounded in the English Civil War’, in Ian Gentles, John Morrill and Blair Worden (eds), Soldiers, Writers and Statesmen of the English Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 114–32. Martin Marix Evans, Naseby 1645: The Triumph of the New Model Army (Oxford: Osprey, 2007), p. 51. Ismini Pells, ‘ “Stout Skippon hath a wound”: the medical treatment of Parliament’s infantry commander following the Battle of Naseby’, in David Appleby and Andrew Hopper (eds), Battle-Scarred: Mortality, Medical Care and Military Welfare during the British Civil Wars (Manchester, 2018), pp. 78–94. Mark Stoyle, ‘The Road to Farndon Field: Explaining the Massacre of the Royalist Women at Naseby’, The English Historical Review, 123 (2008), pp. 895–923. Tim Wales, ‘The Parish and the Poor in the English Revolution’, in Stephen Taylor and Grant Tapsell (eds), The Nature of the English Revolution Revisited (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2013), pp. 53–80.

Read More

‘Killing a King’: The Sack of Leicester and the Trial of Charles I

On 17 to 19 December 2019, a three-part docudrama called ‘Charles I: Killing a King’, produced by Darlow Smithson Productions, was screened on BBC4. In the first episode, presenter Lisa Hilton met up with the principal investigator of the Civil War Petitions project, Professor Andrew Hopper in the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland. Whilst much of the focus of the series was on the high politics surrounding the trial and execution of Charles I, Prof. Hopper used the project's petitions from Leicestershire to explain how the suffering experienced by ordinary people during the Civil Wars contributed towards the movement to bring the king to justice. In this blog, Prof. Hopper examines a key feature of these petitions - the memory of the sack of Leicester by the royalists in 1645 - in more detail... In places where surviving petitions from the county Quarter Sessions are scarce, the project has been unearthing petitions from among collections of corporation records, some previously unused by historians. Thirteen such petitions survive among the Borough Hall Papers of Leicester, many of which refer to their claimants’ losses during the sack of Leicester by Charles I’s field army on the night of 31 May 1645. In this bloody assault, the royalists lost 400 men and were no doubt in an ugly mood by the time they penetrated the earthwork defences. The garrison had been insufficient to man the perimeter so it had been supplemented by a scratch force of 900 armed civilians. This made the boundary between soldier and civilian a blurred one in the eyes of their assailants. Few escaped. London newsbooks soon reported that the royalists had killed defenders and civilians who had been trying to surrender. The parliamentarian Bulstrode Whitelocke accused the royalists of having stripped and raped the women of the town. 140 cartloads of plunder were removed from the town and sent northward to royalist-held Newark, whilst the town authorities were faced with arranging burial for 719 bodies. On 3 June 1645, the parliamentarian scoutmaster Leonard Watson reported to Sir Samuel Luke that the sack of Leicester was ‘(if one may compare a small thing with a great) not much unlike the sack at Magdeburg.’ Magdeburg had lost 20,000 inhabitants when it was sacked by the Army of the Catholic League only fourteen years earlier in May 1631, becoming the most notorious atrocity of the Thirty Years’ War. The king’s German nephew, Prince Rupert, had directed the assault on Leicester, lending credence to parliamentarian notions that foreigners were brutalising the conflict in England. Whilst the violence at Leicester fell far short of Magdeburg proportions, many of the survivors were ruined by it. Frances Stevens and Constance Brewin petitioned at Leicester Castle that their husbands had both served in the garrison and that they had been killed alongside their captains during the assault. The two widows declared that as a result they had ‘falne into great want and povertie’. Frances had six children to support and Constance had two. They reminded the Justices of their duty to pay them a weekly allowance ‘as by Ordinance of Parliam[en]t is mentioned to be allowed’. Their neighbour, the tailor William Summer, petitioned the mayor and aldermen concerning his terrible losses. He declared that his townhouse and orchard had been demolished before the assault took place because they had compromised the defences. During the fighting his son was killed, his possessions were carried off by the royalist soldiers, whilst ‘w[i]th the fright whereof yo[u]r petition[er]s wife hath beene distracted ever synce’. Summer struggled to provide for his five remaining children and his traumatised wife, but now stood threatened for practising his trade without being a freeman of the town. He had to quit his work as a tailor, but successfully petitioned the mayor and aldermen to be permitted to work as a botcher mending old garments. Stevens, Brewin, Summer and many others had to live with the consequences of that fateful night for decades afterwards. Stories of royalist atrocities at Leicester lingered in parliamentarian circles and no doubt grew in the telling. When 31 prosecution witnesses were assembled for the trial of Charles I on 24 January 1649, Humphrey Browne, an husbandman from Whissendine in Rutland and an eye-witness of the sack of Leicester, was required to be among them. Leicester provided an excellent opportunity for the trial commissioners to demonstrate the ‘blood guilt’ of a king waging war on his people, because Charles had personally been present. Browne was likely procured to testify by local regicides Thomas, Lord Grey of Groby, or Colonel Thomas Wayte, and declared that he had seen the king ‘then on horseback in bright Armor in the said Towne of Leicester’. Browne gave evidence that part of Leicester’s defences - the Newarke – had surrendered on good conditions rather than having been taken by storm like the rest of the town. He claimed that the royalist soldiers broke these terms of surrender by cutting and maiming the prisoners taken inside. When royalist officers rebuked them, Browne claimed that he heard the king reply: ‘I doe not Care if they Cutt them three tymes more, for they are mine Enimies’. Whether Browne’s testimony was truthful or trumped up, it had the power to persuade because the suffering endured by the soldiers and civilians in the defence of Leicester had become notorious in how parliamentarians remembered the war. Further reading: Glenn Foard, Naseby: The Decisive Campaign (2nd edn., Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2004); Edward Vallance, ‘Testimony, Tyranny and Treason: the Witnesses at Charles I’s Trial’, forthcoming in a major academic journal. We are most grateful to Professor Vallance for sharing with us his excellent forthcoming article on the witnesses at the king’s trial.

Read More

‘Members of one another’s miseries’: care in the community during and after the Civil Wars

The Civil War Petitions team expects to collect, transcribe and digitise around 4,500 petitions and certificates by the end of our project, as well as details of around 13,000 more individuals preserved in Quarter Sessions order books and treasurers’ accounts. This will be a huge achievement, but it represents the tip of an even larger iceberg, for it has been estimated that over 90,000 soldiers were wounded in England and Wales, 30,000 in Scotland, and many more in Ireland. The petitions and certificates of many claimants have been lost over the centuries, but it seems very likely that tens of thousands of veterans and war widows made no claims at all. This raises questions as to why so many needy people chose not to petition the authorities, and how they managed without financial relief. Similarly, how were royalist veterans and war widows able to survive during the Commonwealth and Protectorate, and how did their parliamentarian counterparts fare after the Restoration, when the vast majority had their pensions taken away? In this blog, David Appleby suggests that we can start to answer these questions not only by considering the financial sacrifices made by the maimed and bereaved themselves, but also the contributions made by their relatives, friends and neighbours. Many of the petitions and certificates referred to in this blog are already freely available in our online database, whilst other documents – such as those from Staffordshire and Northamptonshire – are currently in the queue waiting to be uploaded; so please do continue to visit our home page regularly to check out the latest additions! It is a truism that war brings out the best and worst in people. Previous blogs in this series have shown how bitter divisions continued to blight communities for decades after the fighting had ceased, but as other blogs have demonstrated there is also ample evidence to show that communities and families rallied round to help those maimed, bereaved and orphaned by the conflict. As we have seen, many of the petitions featured in the Civil War Petitions website were submitted by communities on behalf of individuals from their neighbourhood. These documents have often been interpreted as a cynical ploy by parishes to offload the financial burden onto the wider county community. This may have happened in some instances, but it is evident that many parishioners were genuinely moved by the plight of neighbours who had suffered serious injury or bereavement. Parnell Heacock told Staffordshire justices in July 1642 that, with her soldier husband missing in Ireland, she had sought the support of her ‘good friends and neighbours’. After Heacock had been sent to a house of correction for vagrancy, no less that forty-seven men and women from her home village of Sherrifhales came forward to attest to her good character, and to assert that she was deserving of financial relief [Staffs Archives, Q/SR/253, fol. 33]. Such solidarity often carried weight with local authorities: in April 1644, the same justices learned of the troubles of Elizabeth Warrilowe, who had accompanied her husband John on campaign in Ireland. John had been badly wounded on two occasions, and hospitalised in Dublin. In the course of being repatriated, the family had been shipwrecked off the coast of Wales. This proved fatal for John Warrilowe, who in his severely weakened physical state was unable to survive the ordeal. His demise left Elizabeth with the difficult task of getting her children safely back to Staffordshire. The fact that she managed to complete this arduous journey, and received a warm welcome in her home village of Caverswall, impressed the county magistrates so much that they commended everyone involved, ‘not doubting that in so charitable a work (as feeling members of one another’s miseries) they will, in all places where the petitioner shall come, afford her their charitable benevolence, which will be acceptable to Almighty God, and [a comfort] to her and her poor children.’ [Staffs Archives, Q/SO/5, fol. 209]. Similar solidarity is evident in Abergele in Denbighshire, where the widow Luce verch John and her children would have starved had it not been for ‘the charitable devotion of their neighbours’. In the eyes of contemporaries people qualified as ‘deserving poor’ either by unavoidable impotency (widows, orphans and the elderly) or through becoming a casualty (maimed soldiers). However, it is very evident that it was also important to have been respected in one’s community before the onset of such misfortune. Communal petitions invariably emphasise that this widow had ‘lived in an honest rank’ or that veteran had previously been ‘a very painful, industrious, honest, poor man’. Self-reliance was a vital element in establishing a reputation as a good neighbour, not least because many early modern communities lacked the resources to support a large number of indigent poor. Those who became burdensome to the community had therefore traditionally run the risk of being exiled to its margins; a risk which increased after 1642, as local economies were bled dry by the opposing sides’ need to maintain their respective war efforts. This is exemplified in the petition of Ann Fookes, who was clearly nervous of becoming a burden to her friends in Halstead, ‘they being poor people’, and explains why others such as Parnell Heacock were so fearful of being thrown onto parish charity, or (even worse) forced to beg. Petitioners very often attempted to convince county justices of their suitability for a pension by outlining the measures they had previously taken to avoid applying for aid: Heacock, for example, had attempted to eke out a meagre living by selling candles [Staffs Archives, Q/SR/253, fol. 33; ERO Q/SBa2/82], whilst Mary Buckley of Wrexham had pawned all her worldly goods in a desperate attempt to provide for her children. Orphans, being too young to enter a trade or raise a loan, were particularly vulnerable. However, children habitually elicited considerable sympathy within communities, as it was widely recognised that they were most definitely innocent victims. Samuel Barker, a widower, had brought up his son on his own, but when he was killed defending Trent Bridge fort against the royalists in April 1645, the infant was left with no relatives in the world. Fortunately, he was taken in by Margaret Cooke, wife of the quartermaster of Nottingham garrison. When Northamptonshire war widow Joane Willmot died in 1659, her orphaned children did at least have relatives to whom they could turn. One of their grandmothers was still alive, and undertook to look after them [Northants Archives QSR 1/11, fol. 95]. Other children were not so lucky. A particularly tangled tale involves the children of Robert Welden, a parliamentarian gunner, killed by the accidental discharge of an artillery piece in 1651. Welden had been a poor day labourer in civilian life, and left his wife and three children deep in debt. Staffordshire’s clerk of the peace recorded in the sessions’ order book that two of these children were the offspring of an earlier marriage. Robert Welden had thought ahead, and had at least made provision for his youngest child, by obtaining his brother-in-law’s agreement to act as a foster parent in the event of his death. In return, the brother-in-law, Thomas Heeley accepted some goods and a small sum of money. Welden’s widow Lettice first applied to the Staffordshire quarter sessions for a pension, possibly in an effort to keep the family together, but it is unknown whether her application was successful. She was certainly still desperate for money, and approached Thomas Heeley to request that he support the youngest child as arranged. Heeley, however, refused to keep his word. The aggrieved widow promptly complained to the Staffordshire justices, who ordered Heeley to pay £8 towards the child’s upkeep [Staffs Archives Q/SR/274, fol. 6; Q/SO/5, fol. 451]. The story becomes even more complicated with the petition of Thomas Wood just over three years later. Wood, a resident of Abbot’s Bromley, was either a good friend of the late Robert Welden (he certainly knew a lot about him), or simply an exceptionally kind neighbour. He observed that two of the children were both motherless and fatherless, and the youngest ‘quite helpless, and utterly destitute of succour or releife’. Unlike Heeley, Wood was not a family relative, but took it upon himself to adopt one of the children, purely (as he put it) out of ‘tender commiseration and pity’. The only reason we know of this extraordinary gesture was because it proved so costly that Wood was forced to petition the Staffordshire quarter sessions in January 1655, seeking money for the child’s continued maintenance [Staffs Archives Q/SR/289, fol. 3]. Whatever the explanation for the contrasting attitudes of Wood and Heeley, the case certainly stands as a good example of the hidden human cost of the civil wars. The exceptional loyalty and devotion of the Cooper (or Cowpe) family in Staffordshire encapsulates most of the issues raised by this blog. In the days of peace, the head of the family enjoyed the respect of his neighbours in Onneley, a small hamlet lying in the parish of Madeley, near to Newcastle-under-Lyme. Cooper had a life interest in what appears to have been a profitable farm or smallholding, described as ‘a pretty tenement’. Cooper’s son, Raphe was farming just over the county border in Cheshire when civil war broke out in England. Like so many others, Raphe was quickly sucked into the conflict, and found himself serving as a foot soldier in the company of Captain Matthew Wright, part of Sir William Brereton’s Cheshire army. It was Raphe’s misfortune to be trapped with a number of other parliamentarian soldiers and villagers in Bartholomley church in December 1643. Although only a minor action, the royalist massacre of the church’s defenders quickly became one of the most notorious incidents of the Civil Wars. Raphe survived, but ‘by the strong hand of the enemy’ lost his right arm, his right eye and – even more critically – was paralysed by a broken back. It is not recorded how his family heard of his plight, nor the means by which he was transported to his father’s ‘pretty tenement’; but in taking him back to Onneley the family had taken a terrible burden on itself. Raphe was effectively a quadriplegic, and would require constant care for the rest of his life. Raphe was noted as being not able to move ‘any further than he is carried by friends’. For the next six and a half years, the maimed soldier’s father and sister became his full-time carers. The modest profits of their ‘pretty tenement’ were insufficient to cover their needs. By the time Raphe’s father died in 1650, the family had run up enormous debts. Following his death, nervous creditors immediately began to demand repayment, whilst the landlord compounded the family’s troubles by claiming his traditional ‘heriot’. This was the fee for transferring the leasehold of the property from father to son. It is possibly that the landlord was hoping for Raphe to default, as this would then have allowed him to evict the Cooper siblings, and rent out the property to an able-bodied farmer. Raphe now had no alternative but to apply for financial assistance. There is no mention of him applying for parish relief, but he certainly petitioned the county justices. In the course of his petition, the maimed soldier gave due credit to the devotion of his sister, stating that she had carried him ‘up and down upon her back, and hath done what she can for him so long as she is able’. Eighteen neighbours signed the petition to certify the truth of Cooper’s story [Staffs Archives Q/SR/268, fol. 7]. Raphe was possibly at a slight disadvantage by virtue of the fact that Onneley lay at the margins of Madeley parish; his application was on even shakier ground by virtue of the fact that he had officially been settled in Cheshire at the time of the Bartholomley incident. The Staffordshire justices noted his last official abode in their order book, and emphasised that ‘by ordinance of Parliament he ought to be relieved in the county of Chester where he was last settled before he took up arms’ [Staffs Archives Q/SO/5, fols. 339-340]. In 1647 these same justices had been involved in a very similar wrangle with Warwickshire authorities over which county should give financial relief to another badly injured soldier, Corporal Peacocke [Staffs Archives Q/SR/260, fols. 1, 2]. However, in Raphe Cooper’s case the injuries were so severe, and the family so obviously deserving of charity, that the justices clearly took pity on him. Cooper and his sister were awarded a county pension, and the justices ordered that this should be augmented by a further payment of 12d. per week from the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of Madeley. The prompt and generous decision of the Staffordshire bench does at least show that the justices were sometimes able and willing to disregard legal technicalities in order to be fair to a family which had done its very best in exceptionally difficult circumstances.

Read More

‘A turbulent Crosgrained [blank]’: Reputation and Defamation in Civil War Petitions

Recently, Civil War Petitions has been gathering petitions from maimed soldiers and war widows in the collections of the Staffordshire Record Office. During the course of this work, our attention has been drawn to the Lichfield Bawdy Courts project. Inspired by some of the amusing and - at times - intriguing early modern insults that have been uncovered by that project, Ismini Pells takes a look at the role of defamation and character assassination in the Civil War Petitions documents. "Reputation and honest Fame; without the which, as one saith, we are dead long before we are buryed." H. Peacham, The Compleat Gentleman (London: 1622), p. 186. So spake the seventeenth-century author and lifestyle guru, Henry Peacham. There is no doubt that reputation mattered in the Early Modern period and that contemporary men and women went to great lengths to defend their good name. Disputes over reputation often became so heated that individuals resorted to violence. Duelling amongst the aristocracy was one of the more spectacular examples of this, a problem which particularly plagued the officer corps of the royalist armies during the Civil Wars. The problem was far from a new one created by the heightened tensions surrounding the Civil Wars, but an entrenched phenomenon in English Society. The English nobility may not have become embroiled in some of the more extreme examples of violence espoused by their French counterparts, but the problem of duelling was such that Charles I had re-established the High Court of Chivalry in 1634 to persuade the nobility to settle their differences in court rather than by arms. The High Court of Chivalry records are available online and these give a fascinating insight into the types of insults that were used by and against the seventeenth-century English gentry and aristocracy. For example, Richard Machen of Benson in Oxfordfordshire, gentleman, complained that his neighbour John Waters called hima base shitten gentleman, and ‘bade me kisse his arse and sayd a turd for you, and that he would have me whipped’. The poorer sorts too could take to the church courts to defend themselves against those who had slandered them in public. In Domestic Dangers: Women, Words and Sex in Early Modern London (Oxford: OUP, 1996), Laura Gowing collected depositions from the Consistory Court of London for a study on defamation in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Gowing demonstrated that a large majority of the urban plaintiffs were women seeking to guard their sexual reputations, often from insults by other women. Many defamers resorted to sexual slander in disputes about other long-standing issues. Amongst the examples Gowing collected was the invective from Henry Wilshire to Elizabeth Stott that ‘thou art a private queane, a base queane, thou keepest a private knave in thy house or else thy bed would not goe jigge and jogge so often as it doth’. These are the types of cases currently being gathered by the Staffordshire Record Office’s ‘Lichfield Bawdy Courts’ project. For ‘ordinary’ people, as scholars such as Gowing, Alex Shepard and Craig Muldrew have shown, defending one’s good name was crucial in a world where everyday transactions were based on credit and reputation was the basis of one’s credit status. Furthermore, monarchical government in England rested upon a significant foundation of collaboration and negotiation from the highest to the lowest in society. This meant that when someone came into contact with the law, their standing amongst their neighbours often played a crucial role – as some of our petitioners found out. As a previous blog demonstrated, it was crucial for maimed soldiers and war widows to present themselves to the courts as upright, moral individuals – as ‘the deserving poor’. The opinion of one’s community could play a vital role in backing such claims up. No fewer than 29 residents of Springfield in Essex endorsed the petition submitted by Oliver Bonden, showing their support for Bonden’s request for relief on behalf of his injured son, who had fallen when his horse was slain at the Second Battle of Newbury. Bonden was successful in his petition, being awarded a gratuity of 40 shillings. In Abergele in Denbighshire, the ‘freeholders, & inhabitants of the parish’ submitted a certificate to the Quarter Sessions on behalf of Luce verch John, whose husband had died in parliament’s service. They testified that her husband had, during his life, ‘Lived civilly & honesty & mayntayned his said wief and children in a decent way according to his degree’. Luce was rewarded with a pension of 40 shillings a year. But what happened when a petitioner was not well regarded amongst his neighbours? Not only would the courts not award financial relief if they were not convinced that a claimant was worthy of it, but the courts were also not afraid to remove pensions from those they adjudged to be suspect individuals. Sometimes a JP’s bad opinion of a claimant might be formed during a face-to-face encounter with them. The West Riding of Yorkshire JP Roger Portington, who went on to support draconian measures against maimed soldiers who had formerly been in parliamentarian service, had been assaulted by a maimed soldier when Portington had served as Treasurer for Maimed Soldiers immediately prior to the Civil Wars. His assailant was later indicted for the attack.[1] More commonly, however, the JPs were influenced by the censure of a claimant’s local community. For example, William Ebrall was ejected from his pension by the Warwickshire JPs because he had ‘lately run out of the Countrey w[i]th the wife of John Hancox of Beusall reputed a Com[m]on Harlott’. Such information could only have come to the court’s attention through local knowledge, gossip and/or an informer. Neighbours were certainly quick to complain when pensions were granted to those they categorised amongst the idle and immoral. The inhabitants of Tenbury protested to the Worcestershire JPs against the pension granted to Nathaniell Maund, who ‘hath for these many yeares wholely declin’d his trade, giving himself alltogether to begging, both in ye Town & Country, comitting what he gains thereby, to sale; and ye money he very oftens converts to drunkenesse. and he is a common drunkard; a Railer, & will abuse any of ye Town or parish with most base & opprobrious language. In brief, he is of ye most vicious life & conversation of any person in ye Countrey’. Likewise, in Lincolnshire, the inhabitants of Skillington petitioned their local magistrate, the earl of Lindsey, that John Walpole was undeserving of his pension. They issued the earl with a five-point invective against Walpole. It was claimed that the veteran ‘did Falsly informe this honorable Court, that by reason of his Age he was past his worke, and Could get none For that little he could doe (when in truth he refused A seruice, through lasines) and said he Could get more by the halfe by beging’. Amongst his other misdemeanours, Walpole was accused of having gone ‘a King katching to Woster [Worcester]’ and being ‘A searcher For Armes vnder old Noll, An assistant to one Thorp a sequestrator, a trooper in ye time of Rebellion, a Contentious person’. It seems that the inhabitants of Skillington could not even find the words strong enough to describe Walpole’s apparent bad character, calling him ‘A turbulent Crosgrained [blank]’. The fate of men like Ebrall, Maund and Walpole, who found themselves facing the prospect of being cut off from financial assistance is unknown. Of course, it was a moot point between these men and their neighbours as to how far they could have maintained themselves through other means.  Yet, the numerous references to poverty and starvation throughout the documents on Civil War Petitions from those who had not previously claimed, or been able to claim, pensions and gratuities indicate the potential seriousness of isolation from state relief. Such references should not be dismissed entirely as exaggerations for dramatic effect. Thus, it seems that a good reputation in seventeenth-century England was not simply requisite for the social niceties of life, it was – at its most extreme – a matter of life and death. [1] I am very grateful to Andrew Hopper for this reference.

Read More

New Wars on Old Battlefields: Disputes in Later Seventeenth-Century Brigstock, Northamptonshire

The research team behind Civil War Petitions have been very lucky with all the help and assistance that we have received from the staff of archives and record offices across England and Wales. We are indebted to their knowledge and expertise , which has helped us to identify all the relevant documents and shed new light on the local contexts in which our petitions were written. We are delighted to introduce this guest blog from Andrew North of Northamptonshire Archives and Heritage Service. As he reveals here in the fascinating case of Giles Blaston of Brigstock in Northamptonshire, there is often more to our petitions than meets the eye... At the end of the old calendar year in March 1660, John Whiston, intruding minister in the Northamptonshire village of Brigstock, signed-off the preceding year’s sequence of baptism records in the parish register. Brigstock was a populous parish in Rockingham Forest, and Whiston was soon recording the new year’s baptisms in his small, neat handwriting. But the records in his hand break off after an entry of 16 May 1660, and the hand of Francis Lewys, who had been ejected as Brigstock’s vicar in 1655, has added the word ‘pretended’ under Whiston’s signature.  Signing-off the second half of 1660’s baptisms in March 1661, Lewys made his point again, writing ‘repossessed’ beneath his own name: the Act of Indemnity and Oblivion was clearly going to take some time to make its mark in this community. Lewys’s attempt to set the record straight did not draw a line under the conflict of religious and political views in the community of Brigstock. According to the petition of Giles Blaston, a labourer there, the enmities of the 1640s were still alive and very much kicking four decades later. When Blaston petitioned the county Quarter Sessions in October 1682, the leading point of his claim for assistance was that he was still suffering ‘hardship by oppressions put upon me by divers of my neighbours in Oliver’s days well known to be of the then Godly party’. Blaston emphasised how he continued to counter the ‘persuasions and affronts of my enemies’ with his ongoing loyalty; he was ‘still [my emphasis] ready with the hazard of my life to serve the king’. Blaston also employed the more formulaic claims conventionally made by petitioners. He had suffered wounds and hardships, was elderly, poor, and had a wife to support. With a neat argumentative twist, these commonplace complaints of petitioners were cited as the reason Blaston would ‘become a scorn to my old enemies’, who, he claimed, ‘still live and flourish’. Was this just too neat? Could the animosities of the wars have lingered so potently for so long in Brigstock, or was the petitioner overplaying his hand? Like all such petitioners, Blaston sought to maximise the grounds of his claim; but he could not risk alienating the presiding justices by making statements that could not be supported. Moreover, twenty prominent parishioners, his ‘loyal neighbours’, were ready to certify that his statements were ‘very just and true’.  In part, it might have been the recent turmoil of the Exclusion Crisis that had stirred up Brigstock’s ‘Godly party’; but there is much evidence that old enmities had indeed also been kept on the boil at a local level. In 1676, Civil War tensions in the neighbourhood had been invoked during a legal dispute over an area of ground called Weldon Plain, rights over which were also claimed by Brigstock’s adjoining parish of Weldon. Contesting the case were Thomas Barton (c.1620-1705), the head of a leading gentry family in Brigstock, and Christopher Lord Hatton (1632-1706), lord of Weldon manor.  During the wars, Barton had captained a troop of horse in Sir Gervase Lucas’s ‘Belvoir Cormorants’; he subsequently seems to have acted as a royalist agent, being kept under surveillance during the Rule of the Major-Generals. Hatton’s father, also Christopher (1605-1670), spent the period ‘enforced to retire into parts beyond the seas…for the preservation of his person from the fury of the…usurpers to continue until the happy restoration of his Majesty’. He is described elsewhere in the legal case papers as ‘a person of great loyalty which through the persecutions of the times caused him to contract great debts and encumbrances upon his estate’. Ostensibly, the land dispute then pitched a staunchly royalist member of the gentry against an equally committed royalist family from the nobility; but the Hatton side called attention to the family’s loyalty in order to build a case that accused Captain Barton’s father, also named Thomas (c.1594-1658), claiming he had ‘illegally obtained in [the] times of rebellion’ a verdict on the use of the plain in a fraudulent court action. In opposition to the royalism of both the Hattons and his own son, the elder Barton was recorded as ‘being a person of that time of great interest with the then usurpers and one who managed the affairs of the then Lord Monson, one of the regicides and murtherers of his…late Majesty’. The language of both Giles Blaston’s petition and the legal case papers share many of the same formulaic expressions – as coercive as they are vacuous – for loyalty to the Crown. Blaston had ‘never deserted his late or now Majesty’s interest’, just as the elder Lord Hatton had displayed ‘constant adhesion to his late Majesty, King Charles the first of glorious memory’. Blaston did not write his own petition and may also have had help shaping its terms. Yet his labouring-class status had not excluded him from the approved Restoration discourse about the wars, or from the idea of artfully manipulating their memory. When he came to make his petition, he had already heard these standard forms articulated and used before justices to promote a personal claim. The 1676 court case had needed witnesses, drawing them from across the local community’s social spectrum; the Hatton side alone called over twenty deponents, one of whom was Giles Blaston. Personal, parochial and political conflict were then deeply interwoven in post-Restoration Brigstock. Both Hatton and Blaston were opportunistically exploiting memories of the Wars in order to press their immediate personal concerns. But, in turn, the fighting of new private wars on old battlefields stoked up the wider community’s memory of past ideological division, reigniting Civil War enmities – and Brigstock’s history of volatility meant it was ready to catch fire again. Weapons had been drawn back in 1631, when Thomas Barton senior, armed with a ‘large pikestaff and a sword’, led over forty of his fellows from Brigstock, together with some of their wives, in a riotous response to some of Lord Hatton’s men from Weldon who had attempted to cut timber on a disputed area claimed by both villages. The same Barton tried to pasture his sheep on Weldon Plain in 1634, and the dispute flared again as Hatton’s men impounded them. In 1637 Barton and his wife encouraged their neighbours not to pay Ship Money, reacting aggressively when the constable came to distrain. Having ‘great power in the late times of usurpation’, Barton senior was in the ascendancy after Naseby and working as ‘bailiff and agent’ for William, Lord Monson. In 1648 he ‘contrived’ the ‘illegal verdict’ in the fraudulent court action against the exiled Hatton to win common rights on Weldon Plain. A defeated cavalier, Thomas Barton junior was treated as a ‘royalist suspect’ during the Interregnum. His time of ascendancy came after the Restoration, which was preceded by his father’s death in 1658, when he inherited the main family estate. The younger Thomas Barton belonged to the ranks of ‘crafty lawyers’ and used all his legal tricks to expand this estate by acquiring more land, antagonising the neighbourhood in the process. His neighbours accused him of misappropriating charitable property and of demolishing Brigstock’s school house. Legal cases with Captain Barton at their centre multiplied, the court papers characterising him as ‘so contentious…and troublesome and vexatious that he seeks the ruin and destruction of many of the poor inhabitants of Brigstock to enrich himself thereby.’ Like his father, Barton could exploit the Civil Wars for his own ends, claiming that ‘in the late times of rebellion the [school] house was in decay and some of the agents of the usurped powers sitting in [it] broke it down’. Barton’s words frame the Wars in terms of usurpation, the same characterisation of the time employed against his father. Once again, these disputes required witnesses, drawing in significant numbers of the local population and reminding them of the profound political discord they had experienced. Captain Barton’s notoriety continued to escalate. By the early-1670s, he had been found in contempt of the county Quarter Sessions and indicted as a common barrator[1] at Northampton Assizes; but he received a warrant for a pardon ‘in consideration of his faithful services to the late and present kings’. He was even put on trial for his life, apparently facing an accusation of murder. The details of this case remain obscure, as do the reasons he managed to avoid conviction – perhaps again he was able to trade on his wartime service to the monarchy. Not surprisingly, Barton’s disputatious activities, so many of which were rooted in, and which constantly invoked, the experience of the Civil Wars, were on everyone’s lips and provoking further controversy. On a market day in the small town of Oundle in the autumn of 1672, Edward Barton, brother of the captain, pulled off the wig of Richard Wormelayton of Brigstock, struck him and ‘knocked his head against the wall’ following ‘some discourse concerning Captain Barton’. But Edward Barton’s defence of his brother’s reputation couldn’t contain the gossip: around the same time, Lord Hatton’s steward was writing to his master at Castle Cornet, Guernsey, where he was governor, about how Barton ‘appears so odious to the country’.[2] Captain Thomas Barton then appears to have thoroughly lived up to the reputation for predatory aggression that had earned his wartime regiment the nickname of ‘Cormorants’. His service with the regiment at Belvoir Castle is recorded in the petition he wrote in support of John Bearsley of Aldwincle, a neighbouring parish of Brigstock. Barton stated that Bearsley was a ‘faithful and valiant soldier’ and ‘truly loyal’, who had ‘never deserted his Majesty’s or his blessed father’s service’. Intriguingly, however, Barton is conspicuously absent from those who were willing to sign their name in supporting  the same expressions of loyalty in Giles Blaston’s petition, despite the fact that he must have been well aware of the royalist veteran in his own village. In fact, the leading signatory on Blaston’s petition was the captain’s youngest brother, Robert, who was a prosperous farmer and a rather less confrontational member of the family. Had the captain continued to hold a grudge against Blaston for standing as a witness against him in the 1676 legal case, or was the labourer one of those ‘poor inhabitants of Brigstock’ who had been exploited by Barton? It would be no surprise if such personal grievances cut across parochial and political loyalties in this way: the mood in post-Restoration Brigstock was a febrile one, with the ruptures of war continuing to be refracted through a multifaceted prism of local tensions. Regardless of whether he was ventriloquizing the words of his petition’s scribe, Blaston’s extraordinary conclusion catches the fractured and suspicious mood of his community perfectly: were he to be granted financial relief and a pension, he said, his ‘enemies’ would be ‘daunted’ and ‘all other good subjects be thereby encouraged to serve and honour their king and to abhor and detest treason and rebellion as the sin of witchcraft.’ On this view, the rebellion against the king had also been a rebellion against God, a deviant transgression that had brought enduring conflict to Blaston’s village. Lewys, the restored clergyman, had similarly tried to characterise the wartime experience as false and abnormal with his comment ‘pretended’. But the search for a labels that would enable the war to be personally memorialised as aberrant trickery were no more successful than the official state policy of amnesia in coming to terms with the experience. Captain Thomas Barton saw things differently. The wars had probably been the most intense and exciting time of his life; and, having survived both the siege at Belvoir Castle and state surveillance, after 1660 he was able to play out fully the role of resurgent cavalier by dominating life in Brigstock. Significantly, he retained the honorific ‘Captain’ for the rest of his days, and was still being discussed in letters a generation after his death. Perhaps, too, Brigstock lived up to the reputation of forest villages for disorder. It had been an unruly place even before the Civil Wars, which inflected existing tensions and provoked new ones – its wounds were deeper and more difficult to remedy than those of Giles Blaston, whose petition won him a pension of three pounds a year. [1] One who stirs up vexatious legal cases and quarrels [2] ‘Country’ here signifies a neighbourhood centred on a market town   Sources   Northamptonshire Record Office Finch Hatton collection: FH 715; FH 1150; FH 1151; FH 3520; FH V6318/8 Quarter Sessions: QSR1/63/60; QSR1/68/63; QSR1/107; QS minute book 1668-1678 Brigstock parish collection: 48P/1; 48P/84 British Library Additional Manuscripts: Add. MS 34014; Add. MS 19516 Parliamentary Archives Main Papers: HL/PO/JO/10/4 Secondary Sources Calendar of State Papers Domestic Charles II 13 Dec 1672 p. 275 Appleby, D.J., ‘”The traitor in our own hearts”: representations of loyalty and animosity in the Restoration archives’ – unpublished conference paper

Read More

‘Civil War, Memory and Authority’: A Conference Blogpost

The sun shone down from a cloudless blue sky on the morning of 4 July 2019 as delegates from a score of British universities assembled in Oxford to attend the project’s midway conference, entitled ‘Civil War, Memory and Authority in England, 1642-1700’.  Co-organised by two members of the project team - Professor Mark Stoyle and Dr Lloyd Bowen - the event was designed to bring together some of the key scholars who are currently investigating the ways in which the mid-seventeenth-century conflict was remembered after the guns had fallen silent. Here, Mark Stoyle reports on the events of the conference... Having made our final dispositions over breakfast, Lloyd, my wife, Lynn, and I made our way to the conference venue: the Quaker Meeting House in St Giles, which - with its beautiful gardens and general air of calm and serenity - is, without doubt, one of the most perfect places in the country for a group of scholars to come together to engage in fruitful, yet relaxed, intellectual discussion. Once arrived at the venue, we scattered to our respective posts: Lloyd to carry out a last check on the PowerPoints and the IT; Lynn to prepare to welcome the invitees and provide them with their conference packs as they streamed through the door; and me to liaise with our hosts, Jacqui and Deb, as we finalised all of the arrangements for the day’s events. At 9.00am precisely our first guests began to arrive, and a cheerful crowd of historians - including our PI, Professor Andy Hopper, and the other two members of the project team, Dr David Appleby and Dr Ismini Pells - was soon assembled on the main lawn: enjoying not only the coffee and tea, but also one another’s company and the general ambience. Refreshed, we took up our places in the Meeting House itself - a high-ceilinged, oak-lined room, with splendid views of the gardens on either side - and prepared to turn our thoughts back from the summer of 2019 to the much darker summer of 1642, to the bloody civil war which ensued and to the enduring legacies of that conflict. Lloyd and I kicked off the proceedings with a few introductory remarks in which we welcomed everyone to the conference and sketched out our plans for the day. I noted, in passing, that I’d been working on the memory of the Civil Wars for almost a quarter of a century, and that I could never have imagined, when I first began to research what then seemed a very recherché topic, that I would one day be co-hosting an entire conference devoted to that same subject. Lloyd went on to explain why we had decided to entitle the conference ‘Civil War Memory and Authority’, rather than ‘Civil War, Memory and Welfare’ - which is, of course, the title of our broader project. He noted that we’d taken this decision, partly to underscore the fact that this event would possess a distinct identity in its own right, but chiefly because we were keen to explore the specific theme of how memories of war and concepts of authority had interacted during the decades after 1642.  Our own two papers, Lloyd added, would demonstrate how wartime memories were deliberately deployed, repurposed and sometimes bent entirely out of shape in order to augment or reduce the authority of specific individuals in the post-war world. He concluded by noting that we hoped that sidelights upon this same theme might emerge from some of our fellow-speakers’ papers, too - while stressing, of course, they had been given free-rein to interpret the conference themes just as seemed most appropriate to them! With the preliminaries out of the way, Lloyd then introduced the first of our key-note speakers, Professor Ann Hughes of Keele, who delivered a wonderfully fresh and thought-provoking paper entitled ‘When the Scotts Army did March Thorow our County: Transformations of Space and Place in the English Revolution’. In this talk, Ann explored how the events of the 1640s and 1650s had not only altered the physical environments in which many people lived - through the extensive destruction of property, for example - but had also irrevocably altered the ways in which they saw the world around them, as specific locations which had once possessed merely mundane, diurnal associations now became haunted by dark memories of robbery, violence and death. The members of the project team were delighted to note that Ann used Nottinghamshire maimed soldiers’ petitions which David had recently transcribed and uploaded to the ‘Civil War, Memory and Welfare’ website to illustrate some of her specific points: for example, the fact that the phrase ‘the Trent Bridges’ had come to be understood, in retrospect, not just as the name of a familiar crossing-place, but also as the name of a site of especially bitter conflict during the Civil War. Ann’s paper was then beautifully complemented by that of our second speaker, Dr Imogen Peck of the University of Warwick, who addressed us on the subject of ‘Civilian Accounts of the British Wars, 1642-60’. In a deeply-researched and elegantly-crafted paper, Imogen explored the neglected subject of how civilians had petitioned for redress in the wake of the conflict, considering, along the way, such topics as the specific language which the petitioners had deployed, the types of suffering and injury for which they had sought compensation and the ways in which the phraseology of the petitions submitted by male and female sufferers had differed. After a short break for refreshment, we reassembled to hear talks delivered by our second panel of speakers: both of them members of the project-team.  I began by introducing Dr Ismini Pells - our project manager at the University of Leicester - who gave a sparkling paper entitled ‘From Revolutionary Bulwark to Stuart Loyalists: The Restoration Re-fashioning of the London Artillery Company, 1660-1668’. Drawing on her deep knowledge of the records relating to seventeenth-century London in general, and to the Artillery Company in particular, Ismini revealed how the company - a body which had played a central part in the Parliamentarian war effort during the 1640s and which had counted no fewer than six of the regicides among its members during the 1650s - had been re-fashioned after 1660 to serve as a vital prop of monarchy. It was a fascinating and highly revealing discussion - and one which left many members of the audience feeling that they had hitherto failed to appreciate the key role which the company had played in England’s seventeenth-century troubles. Ismini was followed by Lloyd whose paper - in a pun which will be fully intelligible only to those who are familiar both with the oeuvre of the 1980s electro-group New Order and with  the history of the Civil War in Wales - was entitled ‘Poyer, Corruption and Lies: Shaping the Recent Past in Civil War Pembrokeshire’. In this brilliant and absorbing talk - which drew on a series of contemporary printed pamphlets, some of which have never been cited before - Lloyd demonstrated how, in a battle over the memory of the recent past, the Parliamentarian commander John Poyer saw his wartime record denigrated during the mid-1640s by a group of ‘ambodexters’, or turn-coat Royalists, who managed to persuade the regime in London that it was they, rather than Poyer, who were its true friends. As Lloyd went on to show, the consequences for Poyer - who was eventually provoked into open revolt by this manifest injustice - proved fatal; he was executed by firing-squad in 1649. With the morning’s papers at an end, we now fanned out into the garden to chat in the sunshine, to relax in the deck-chairs which had been set out in the shade of the marquees and to enjoy the excellent lunch which had been laid on for us by our caterers: ‘Waste2Taste’, an Oxford-based firm whose mission is to reduce food-waste by using high quality surplus food. We reconvened at 2.00 for our second key-note paper, which was delivered by Professor John Walter of the University of Essex, and entitled ‘Remember 41! Popular Violence and Political Memory’. In a masterly address - one which ranged widely over space and time and which was illustrated by many vivid examples - John explored why it was the year 1641 - rather than, say, the year 1646, when the Royalists were defeated, or the year 1649, when Charles I was executed - which was looked back on after the Restoration as the highpoint of ‘fanatical’ enthusiasm and popular rage. Above all, John argued, it was the fact that there had not been ‘such a perceived lack of respect for order and authority in England’ since the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 as there had been in 1641 which had caused ‘Remember 41!’ to become such a potent rallying cry for conservatively-minded English folk as they anticipated fresh social and political turmoil during the 1670s. John was followed by Dr Charlotte Young, of Royal Holloway, whose paper was entitled ‘I Faithfully Served His Majestie to the End of those Infortunate Warres: Presenting Royalism in Sequestration Papers, 1643-1661’. In her fascinating - and often very amusing talk - Charlotte compared and contrasted the ways in which those who had been accused of supporting Charles I during the Civil War, first, after 1646, did all they could to play down the extent of their wartime Royalism in their petitions to the Parliament to compound, and, then, after 1660, did all they could to play up their wartime Royalism in an attempt to persuade Charles II to compensate them for their losses during and after the war. The last two talks were delivered by me, and by my friend and colleague from the University of Southampton, Dr Alice Hunt. In a subtle, allusive paper entitled ‘Ceremony and Memory: Charles II’s Coronation 1661’, Alice showed how memories of the 1640s and 1650s had whispered around the splendid coronation ceremony which was staged for Charles II in 1661, and how - like spectres at the feast - the un-laid ghosts of the Civil War and Interregnum had quietly, but insistently, served to undermine the show of unity and unconstrained majesty for which the king and his ministers were striving. I then followed Alice with my own talk, entitled, ‘Extreme Trials of Fidelity? Captain Bartholomew Gidley and Royalist Memories of the Civil War’. This paper reconstructed the life and career of a Royalist officer who had served in the ‘Tinners’ regiment raised from the Dartmoor Stannaries during the Civil War, and explored how his wartime exploits had been memorialised in a series of post-Restoration sources: including a unique silver medal, an ornate funerary stone and a clutch of petitions for relief which had been submitted by former Royalist soldiers who had served under his command. These petitions will, in due course, be made available for all to consult on the project website. The conference then came to an end with some valedictory words from me and Lloyd, and a kind vote of thanks from Andy, before we all repaired to the Royal Oak pub nearby: thoughts of Boscobel flitting appropriately through our minds as we settled down to enjoy a post-conference drink. All in all, it was a wonderfully stimulating - and convivial - day, and Lloyd and I are enormously grateful to everyone who joined us on 4 July: above all, of course, to our inspirational speakers. We were especially glad to welcome Dr Ed Legon and Dr Erin Peters - both of whom have recently published important monographs on the ways in which the Civil Wars were commemorated and remembered in post-1660 England - and Professor Mark Cornwall, who is one of the greatest authorities on the memory of a still more terrible conflict: the First World War. Finally, we were delighted to be joined by our project mentor, Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, and by many of our fantastic project volunteers, without whom we could never have got as far as we have. Our sincere thanks go to one and all.  

Read More

The Parents of Wounded and Fallen Soldiers: Two Case Studies from Warwickshire

Our last blog looked at the impact that a soldier's injuries might have on his wife and their ability to provide for their children. However, when soldiers were wounded or slain, it was not just the welfare of their wives, widows, children and orphans that were placed in jeopardy. Andrew Hopper here demonstrates how sometimes the livelihoods of parents of soldiers also suffered damaging consequences. Two petitions to the parliamentarian County Committee for Warwickshire seated at Coventry reflect the impact the human costs of civil war could have on the aged parents of casualties. The second of these petitions also throws more light on a little known engagement typical of the incessant garrison warfare that played out in the west midland counties. Our first petition came from Paul Spooner who had served as a foot soldier for three years in the garrison at Warwick Castle under Colonel Bridges. He petitioned the County Committee on 16 December 1646 that he had been ‘wounded unrecoverably’ in Parliament’s service, leaving him ‘utterly unable to stand or any way to get one penny to help himself’. He was disbanded and sent home to live with his widowed mother, in her ‘poor cottage house which standeth upon the waste’ in the hamlet of Nuthurst, 3 miles north of Henley-in-Arden. Spooner’s petition was very unusual for three reasons. Firstly, at 438 words long it was much longer than most petitions from rank and file soldiers. Secondly, it was very rare in acknowledging the income of a female relative. To show the magistrates how destitute Spooner was, the petition set out that his mother only earned 2 pence a day from spinning, a hopelessly small sum to maintain them both. Thirdly, Spooner related why his neighbours were unable to provide him poor relief; the hamlet consisted of just 2 freeholders and 4 copyholders, who were already burdened with 7 poor cottagers in receipt of alms. Spooner had petitioned the justices at the Michaelmas sessions at Warwick without success, so in order that Spooner ‘perish not for want of relief’, his neighbour Edward Wood took another petition for Spooner to the County Committee at Coventry instead. The petition reminded the Committee of their duty to relieve Spooner ‘according to ordinance and decree of parliament in that case provided’. Spooner boldly requested a monthly allowance for the rest of his life, but in mitigation dolefully added that ‘in respect of his incurable wounds and great weakness’ that was not likely to last long. The petition was successful in that the County Committee ordered their treasurer to send 30 shillings to Spooner, a sum that would have taken his widowed mother 6 months to earn from spinning. Our second petition also reminds us that parents could be dependents on their sons. It came from George Harthill, a labourer of Atherstone in north Warwickshire. His petition lamented that he had lost three sons in Parliament’s service. It requested that the County Committee settle on him the sum of £10 from the arrears of pay owed to one of them, Nicholas Harthill, a trooper under Captain Thomas Hunt. In March 1644, Hunt’s troop appears to have been sent in addition to 110 foot from Coventry to aid Colonel John Fox’s attempt to relieve the parliamentary garrison recently planted at Stourton Castle, near Stourbridge in Staffordshire. A detachment of Worcester’s royalist garrison led by Sir Gilbert Gerard met Fox’s relief force on Stourbridge Heath on 27 March. Nicknaming him ‘Tinker Fox’ in derision of his origins as a Walsall metalworker, the royalist newsbook Mercurius Aulicus gloated how Fox’s ‘unworthy trayne’ were never going to stand against a royalist force composed of ‘Voluntiers and Gentlemen of Quality’. Aulicus related that the ‘first running Rebell was the Joviall Tinker himself’, and that his men were so ‘piteously bang’d’ across the heath that 64 were killed in a pursuit that lasted 3 miles. We now know that among those who fell was Nicholas Harthill, whose father’s moving petition ended by asserting that Nicholas’s arrears would help relieve Nicholas’s aged mother and remaining siblings. The Coventry committeemen, headed by Colonel William Purefoy, who had sent Hunt’s troop into the doomed engagement at Stourton, agreed to settle on Harthill a month’s worth of his son’s pay arrears. With troopers usually paid at 2 shillings 6 pence per day, this likely amounted to around £3 and 15 shillings, some way short of half of what the bereaved father had requested. The fate of Harthill’s wounded comrades taken prisoner at Stourbridge Heath contributed to the worsening of relations between Colonel Fox and his commander, Basil Feilding, Earl of Denbigh. Fox complained to Denbigh for preventing him from exchanging a royalist gentleman captive for those captured at Stourbridge: ‘there is great case to be made of him for the exchange of ours in prison’, who ‘would think it strange that other prisoners should be released by him and they lie for want of exchanges, which he will solve of many, especially they being wounded men and stand in need of present enlargement.’ This underlines how the urgent need to arrange exchanges for those wounded in enemy custody whose very survival was at stake became a pressing matter of conscience for commanders. This made such prisoners highly relevant to the war efforts of both sides. Fox’s brother in law, Captain Humphrey Tudman, was among Stourton Castle’s garrison when it surrendered after Fox’s defeat on Stourbridge Heath. Aulicus scorned that ‘Colonel Tinker’s brother in law’ was ‘unworthy the charge of a guard’, and so was disarmed and released. After having commanded President Bradshaw’s guard during the trial of Charles I, John Fox was described in the Council of State’s proceedings of October 1650 as ‘ready to starve’. In great debt, he died soon after. Fox left two sons, John and Humphrey, in the care of their uncle, Captain Tudman. In 1653 Tudman warned Parliament’s Committee of Compounding that now he was left ‘without hope of his arrears’, if he was not relieved he would turn the orphans onto the streets to beg, shaming them that ‘the Commonwealths enemies’ would ‘say in reproach and especially in the county where his service was so eminent “these are the children of Colonel Fox.”’ Sources and Further Reading The National Archives, SP28/248/II, fol. 173 (the petition of Paul Spooner, 16 December 1646). The National Archives, SP28/248/I, fol. 38 (the petition of George Harthill, 26 October 1648). The National Archives, State Papers 23/85, fol. 414. British Library, Thomason Tracts E.42[26], Mercurius Aulicus, 13th week (Oxford, 1644), p. 908. Andrew Hopper, ‘“Tinker” Fox and the politics of garrison warfare in the West Midlands, 1643–50’, Midland History, 24 (1999), p. 108.    

Read More

Old Wives’ Tales: Long-term Medical Care during the English Civil Wars

One of the main objectives of Civil War Petitions is to gain a better understanding of what kind of medical care was available to wounded soldiers during the Civil Wars. The petitions and certificates reveal the names of medical practitioners that have hitherto remained obscure, as well as provide an insight into the types and quality of the procedures they performed. However, as Ismini Pells explains, medical care during the Civil Wars was not just a matter for professional practitioners... In January 1688, Robert Ashorst of Marsh Baldon submitted a petition to the Oxfordshire Quarter Sessions together with his wife. Although Robert failed to name his wife, their petition is unusual as an example of a petition for military relief in that it was submitted equally by husband and wife. Robert noted that he was ‘above four score [80] years old & his wife above three score & ten [70]’ and that they were ‘both very lame & helpless’. The couple had previously attempted to secure some parish relief on the basis of Robert’s military service, though the inhabitants refused to accept his story. Robert claimed that he had fought in all three kingdoms and could produce the witnesses to prove it. He had allegedly been impressed for service in the Bishops’ Wars against Scotland under Sir Jacob Astley, and afterwards volunteered for service in putting down the rebellion in Ireland, before going on to fight for the royalist cause in the Civil Wars in England. Whilst in the king’s service he ‘receiv’d so many shots & bruises as together with his old age have render’d him not able to do any thing’. Although Ashorst’s petition was unusual in being submitted jointly with his wife, it draws attention to the all-too common problems which must have been faced by many military wives during the Civil Wars. As the medical historian Roy Porter was at pains to stress, ‘a great deal of healing in the past (as, of course, in the present) has involved professional practitioners only marginally, or not at all, and has been primarily a tale of medical self-help, or community care’.[1] Indeed, very few of the petitions collected by the Civil War Petitions project so far make any reference to treatment by medical practitioners. Moreover, the vast majority of these cases emanate from soldiers not yet or only recently disbanded. This suggests that although many of the veterans might have received some form of treatment from regimental medical staff in the immediate aftermath of their wounding, the responsibility for their long-term care largely rested with their family. We know from the petitions of widows whose husbands had survived the initial impact of their wounding or disease that the responsibility for longer-term care for a soldier often rested with his family, typically his wife. For example, Margaret Beavis told the Essex Quarter Sessions in 1653 that her husband John, a soldier in the Commonwealth’s service, had contracted some sort of illness whilst fighting under Captain Burrell and had eventually died ‘after hee hath long lyen sick at greate charges insoe much your poore petitioner is much impoverished thereby’. In Leicester, Katherine Palmer informed the borough corporation that during his imprisonment following the sack of Leicester by the king’s forces in 1645, her husband Abraham (who had participated in the defence of the town) ‘tooke the cause of a disease which within lesse then a yeare did neare him to death by a lingering sicknesse did spend all that your petitioner could anie waies procure’. Of course, sometimes wives sought professional medical help in caring for their husbands. Elizabeth Newum told the Nottinghamshire County Committee that whilst caring for her husband Nathaniel before his death, she had racked up fees of more than £4 with the surgeon and apothecary. The practitioners were now hounding her for the money, which she had no idea how to pay ‘unless I bee forct to sell up all that I have and soe I and my poor infant shall bee forced to beg’. However, wives will have taken on much of the day-to-day care of wounded veterans themselves. In the seventeenth century, what was it like to look after someone who had lost a limb or suffered from limited mobility, was blind, suffered from disease or was in pain? Few petitioners describe their day-to-day care regime, but we can assume that wounded veterans would have required assistance in performing their daily functions. One rather harrowing account from the West Riding of Yorkshire sheds light on the daily realities of caring for veterans who suffered from potential psychological problems as a result of the Civil Wars. A petition of Elizabeth, her surname illegible but probably the wife of Edward Bradley of Horbury, seems to suggest that her husband was troubled that ‘he should be soe sleighted for his great losses and imprisonments'. Elizabeth described how the family dared not venture abroad ‘but is forst to have one to look after him’, as her husband was prone to putting himself in danger whilst wandering at large. Elizabeth, who was loathe to admit it publicly, could not look after her husband because, in her word, ‘I have beene lame a {missing word} while myselfe and had my breast cut of w[hi]ch hath disinable me much to doe that {missing word}formerly I had done for him’. As Elizabeth’s petition demonstrates, when wives were unable to care for their husbands themselves, the money required for paid help could put strains on limited family finances. Nevertheless, using a family member as a carer also had an impact on the household income by restricting the time available to the carer for paid employment. A few veterans, like Ashorst, explained how their wife’s own lack of physical health prevented them from taking on work to compensate for his inability to provide for his family. Interestingly, however, not one petition from a wounded soldier collected so far mentions the impact that caring for them had on their wife’s ability to carry out paid work. This resonates with Alexandra Shepard’s work on witnesses in church court cases, where she discovered that male witnesses consistently ignored or downplayed the contribution made by their wives towards their household income.[2] Thus, without the insight provided by the petitions from war widows or from women like Elizabeth, it would be far too easy to overlook the daily responsibilities performed by wives in caring for wounded veterans. As more work emerges on the capabilities and innovations of professional practitioners during the Civil Wars, we must be careful not to lose sight of the equally important – if no doubt at times mundane and laborious – contribution made by these women to medical care in the Civil Wars. [1] Roy Porter, ‘The Patient’s View: Doing Medical History From Below’, Theory and Society, 14:2 (1985), p. 175. [2] A. Shepard, Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status, and the Social Order in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 226-30.

Read More